WHEN the city’s new Lady Mayoress retired after a 40 year career in the fuel industry, she had no inkling of the exciting new chapter that was lying ahead of her.
Stephanie Kavanagh admits she thought her retirement would be more about gardening and golf.
But, married to long-serving Fine Gael councillor and devoted community man Joe for nearly three decades, she knew him becoming Lord Mayor was always potentially on the cards.
And while softly-spoken Stephanie admits that her role is ‘still all very new’ to her, she’s looking very much forward to the year ahead.
“Joe is a very proud Cork man and this will suit him very well. Normally I would be quite happy to stay in the background, this role wouldn’t come completely naturally to me, but it’s already getting easier just a few weeks in and everyone has been so lovely and helpful,” she said.
“I’m going to be there for Joe and I’m very happy to do that.”
Stephanie grew up in Mayfield and was the third eldest of eight – she has six sisters and a brother who all live mainly locally and who are a wonderful support.
Married to Joe for 27 years, she lives in Montenotte in a house full of men.
“I’m outnumbered,” she laughed. “Our sons are 35-year-old Glenn who lives in Dublin and 25-year-old Philip, who is in Cork.”
Glenn works in a US recruitment firm and Philip works in Dell as part of their graduate programme.
Also included in the male household is their 11-year-old cocker spaniel Rocky.
Stephanie joked: “It’s all men in my life which is great until you’re going out the door and ask how you look and all you get back is ‘grand’!”
Stephanie tragically lost her first husband in a car accident. Reluctant to speak about her loss she said: “I never intended to marry again, but I could not have met a nicer man than Joe.”
She’s also the doting granny to two-year-old Theo, who lives in Dublin, and who she’s looking forward to spending more time with now that Covid-19 restrictions are easing.
“He’s really adorable and I like to get up as often as I can to help out and babysit while I still have the energy and am fit enough,” she said.
Stephanie worked all her life, in sales in the fuel industry.
“I worked for Ted Castles, Suttons and Bord Na Mona and loved it. I took early retirement two years ago but I’m as busy now as I was then,” she said.
Among her hobbies are golf, reading, walking and her garden – the latter three she was able to devote lots of time to during lockdown.
“When I retired a friend also asked me to help with fundraising and volunteer work for L’Arche, which supports people with intellectual disabilities to live independently in the community and I’ve been enjoying that.”
She also enjoys meeting her sisters for coffee, and cites a small number of longstanding friends as being very important to her.
“I have some old friends, you could count them on two or three fingers, who I’m very close to and who have always been wonderful to me especially in times of need,” she said.
So while Stephanie is getting used to being in the limelight, she’s certainly well used to a good pace of life with her career, hobbies and love of travel.
She also has a love of style and fashion, and that aspect of her new role, and being photographed at various events, won’t daunt her in the slightest.
“I love getting dressed up for occasions and usually for birthdays or Christmas I’d get vouchers. I like shopping in Brown Thomas - every where really! And if I get stuck for something during the year, I always have my sisters on standby!”
While social distancing, and ongoing uncertainties surrounding Covid-19 might put slightly different slant on Joe and Stephanie’s year ahead, the Lady Mayoress is still determined to keep the traditional emphasis on fundraising.
That includes hosting the annual coffee morning for Marymount and the Lord Mayor’s Ball. She’s also looking forward to the school visits later in the year.
“I love kids so that will be a highlight for me I think,” she said.
Just a few weeks in, Stephanie said working out of City Hall is getting less daunting all the time and she’s finding her stride.
“This certainly isn’t what I imagined my retirement to be, but every challenge presents new opportunities and I’m going to embrace and enjoy it.”